It starts with popcorn. Like so many things.
Marlo Anderson, Mandan native and the founder of the National Day Calendar, energy behind the Autonomous Friendly Corridor, and perhaps better known as the “Guru of Geek” on his tech podcast the Tech Ranch, ran into a major dilemma a few years ago, in early 2013. “I stopped finding information for national popcorn day,” Anderson said.
Red alert. In an effort to learn more, and to celebrate the many other days of the year, Marlo started a very rudimentary calendar he called the National Day Calendar, as a way to share more information on the more obscure, unique holidays. He launched the site on January 19, 2013. Little did he know, he wasn’t the only one looking to celebrate the forgotten holidays. In July that same year, over 100,000 people visited the site. By the following July in 2014, over 1 million people had visited the site, in 2015 over 3 million. This July, Anderson is projecting over 10 million site visits.
“It started as ‘just a hobby,'” he said. “But it quickly became a major distraction to normal business hours.”
In the process, National Day Calendar also attracted some high profile followers on social media. Among the 20,000 fans are Ellen DeGeneres, Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Kimmel and the Today Show. On Twitter, fans may be familiar with hashtags such as #SquirrelAppreciationDay or #NationalHugDay — just two examples of the official hashtags the team uses. National Day Calendar hashtags were trending on Twitter over 200 times in 2015. Today, according to SEO tracking site SEMrush, the National Day Calendar is in the top 2,500 most visited websites in the world — and still climbing.
How to add a National Day
Anyone looking to start a National Day can do so for free by registering through the National Day Calendar website. Anderson said he receives around 18,000 applications for national days to be added every year. Of those about 30 are approved annually, he said. A selection committee of four people sifts through the request and the days must receive unanimous approval before moving forward with the idea.
Ideas range everywhere from unique artichoke heart day to the questionable explorer, to humble pie, to the honorable veteran day, Anderson said. They accept one-time applications as well, such as 100th town anniversary days. If accepted, the applicant will receive a plaque stating their National Day title and the date, a press release is sent out, and the day is publicly celebrated on their social media.
Currently, due to “substantial backlog”, the National Day Calendar is only accepting applications from companies and organizations.
From Hobby to Business
In August of 2015, Anderson and his team were able to turn the National Day Calendar from a hobby into a business. They generate income through their official registrar for new holidays, ads, speaking gigs, and products like hanging wall calendars. Anderson said he has a go-with-the-flow method of growing the company. “Business plan? I recommend business summaries,” Anderson said. “Like maybe two to three sentences.”
In the next year, he is hoping to hire a few more staff to manage the calendar, update social media and monitor the requests. They also plan to update the website, launch a National Day Calendar app, a National Days clothing line, and and release products made for their most popular national days. Ultimately, the goal is — as Anderson’s shirt stated in bold, white letters — to do one thing.
“My advice?” he said. “Celebrate every day.”